September 2, 2016
The photographs were taken at Innisfree Garden September 2 and September 11, 2016.
Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem, Op. 66 (1961)
Michael Steinberg wrote
The War Requiem . . . was tied to a pair of events—the destruction of Coventry Cathedral in an air raid during the night of November 14‑15, 1940 and its reconsecration more than twenty‑one years later—that were heavily freighted with history and emotion. Its first performance was planned as an international event with respect both to participants and audience. Most important, the War Requiem was a weighty and poignant statement on a subject of piercingly urgent concern to much of humankind. For 1961 was the year of the Bay of Pigs and of the construction of the Berlin Wall; both that year and in 1962, United States involvement in Vietnam increased frighteningly. [citation]
The text for the War Requiem is the Latin Mass for the Dead, interspersed with nine poems by WWI poet Wilfred Owen. The complete text may be found here.
. . . Owen composed nearly all of his poems in slightly over a year, from August 1917 to September 1918. In November 1918 he was killed in action at the age of twenty-five, one week before the Armistice. Only five poems were published in his lifetime . . . [citation]
The War Requiem is in six movements:
- Requiem aeternam (Eternal Rest)
- Dies irae (Day of wrath)
- Offertorium (Bringing offerings)
- Sanctus (Holy)
- Agnus Dei (Lamb of God)
- Libera me (Deliver me)
The work calls for large forces, about which Michael Steinberg wrote:
The basic division of the performers is into two groups, reflecting the dual source of the words, which stand in a relation of text (the Latin Missa pro defunctis) and commentary (the nine Owen poems). The Latin text is the province essentially of the large mixed chorus, but from this there is spillover in two opposite directions, the solo soprano representing a heightening of the choral singing at its most emotional, the boys’ choir representing liturgy at its most distanced. The mixed chorus and solo soprano are accompanied by the full orchestra; the boys’ choir, whose sound should be distant, by an organ. All this constitutes one group. The other consists of the tenor and baritone soloists, whose province is the series of Owen songs and who are accompanied by the chamber orchestra. [citation]
Steinberg’s program notes for the War Requiem may be found here.
Further general information on the War Requiem may be found at Listening to Britten here. Additional materials, including the complete text and an analysis of each section may be found here. A thorough talk on the “Story Behind the Music” may be found here. Useful video materials, including thoughts and responses from student performers, may be found here. The Britten/Pears Foundation offers audio-visual materials about the War Requiem here.
Performers in both the Spotify and YouTube recordings:
- Benjamin Britten: Composer (and conductor), London Symphony Orchestra
- Melos Ensemble, London Symphony Orchestra Chorus, Highgate School Choir, The Bach Choir
- Galina Vishnevskaya: Soprano, Sir Peter Pears: Tenor, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau: Bass, Simon Preston: Organ
Spotify recording is here.
Credits: The sources for the quotations are as indicated in the post. The photographs, as always on the blog unless otherwise indicated, are mine.
September 11, 2016